It's all about Amelioration

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ENGAGE your people

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The congressional hearing last week in Alan Greenspan’s role in the greatest recession ever was real amusing to say the least. To think he was once revered as the economic messiah.  Many people in high places like Ben Bernanke, Tim Geithner, CEOs of banking giants like Goldman Sachs were all subjected to such congressional hearings recently too, in an inquiry to the credit crisis.  You just got to love such hearings, pitting wits against one another, asking of sagacious questions, the use of sophistry to complicate truths, the intellectual banter between very smart people basically makes for real good education. That’s what I admire about the freedom of speech inAmerica. They trash it out in public like no other.

You see, when the congressional hearing for the financial crisis was held, majority of the congressmen were independent, meaning that they had no interest in any financial institution, and in each hearing they were the majority questioning the minority. In one hearing, I was especially impressed by how Tim Geithner, the US Treasury Secretary manged  to handle a panel of 20 over members questioning him on his role of the AIG bailout. Imagine that, one person in the middle, surrounded by 20 congressmen, being grilled left, right, centre. Real intense. In such cases, either you a) prove your worth and gain confidence from congress and members of the public, b) manged to engage in sophistry, throw a smoke screen and use clever analogies to get out alive, c) crumble and die.

If only Singapore had such a system, whereby if there was a major national issue, an inquiry and commission of selected industry experts and ministers, would be set up to investigate the matter in full public view? (Does the Mas Selemat fiasco ring a bell?)

Of course, we cannot compare directly to the system in America. They are under the presidential system of governance, while we are using the parliamentary one. However, regardless of system, I think the greater issue here is of transparency and  accountability to its people. The US government arranged such an inquiry to attempt to learn from past regulatory mistakes as well as more importantly show its citizens that it cares. It cares about the high unemployment on main street, it cares about the millions of retirement savings lost and it wants to reassure them that they are being heard.  It is about getting citizens  involved and understanding the issues at hand.

Whether it’s a public inquiry, dialogue, seminar etc, purpose is not to shame or point fingers on anyone, but like i mentioned above, to ensure transparency, accountability and to give its citizens the confidence in the system and its leaders.

Back to our island. There is something called complacency. And it occurs when any system or governance is not being kept in check or balance. Citizens are not being actively engaged in forms of live public forums or seminars and the widening between the ruling party and the grassroots becomes more apparent. Either we Singaporeans are really an ignorant bunch or the ruling party deems such an engagement a waste of time.

I like to emphasize

Photo by Mike Licht

the word live, not just portals like “REACH” where editors and government officials can use words to deviate from the core issue. For example, a few readers expressed unhappiness over the recent COE hike and wrote in to the Straits Times. All we got was a nicely crafted reply basically saying that it ain’t the government’s problem. Blame it on Adam Smith and the free market. That’s it, no follow-up, very passive. It’s easy to sit behind a desk and reply feedback through media portals like the Straits Times forum. That’s what Public Relations (PRs) people are for, they are the proverbial spin doctors. However, it is another issue to engage the public live,  because that is where we see the true quality of our ministers and where their true passion lies.

Take the recent “Talking Point” on Channel News Asia recently about the issue close to our hearts – our HDB flats in Singapore, for example.   Why is it that there is only one independent member out of three in the discussion? In any case, if you are the Minister of National Development, and are confident enough on your policies and leadership, why do you need a sidekick on the show (in this case another MP)?  Notice also that they spoke solely on HDB policies without factoring in government policies like foreign immigration which essentially affects the entire balance of the system. It’s like talking about globalization and ignoring China/India. If we are able to bring in a panel of experts from various industries and more importantly members of the public, I am sure there will be more probing and insightful questions, instead of merely scratching the surface of the issue. Our ministers must understand that it’s not about defending oneself but being open to suggestions, learning from one another and engaging the audience/citizens.

Photo by ItzaFineDay

You see, I feel that there is so much build up discontentment and resentment on the ground on issues of irrational HDB prices, loose foreign immigration policies and the billions lost by GIC. However sadly, most of us can only pour out hearts out on the world-wide web. As it is, we lack opposition seats in the parliament to truly offer alternative perspectives, plus quite a  number of our MPs, that are supposed to represent us are not echoing the exact sentiment in parliament. Furthermore, protests and even mere leaflets are a big no-no too. Thus I like to urge our ruling party to at the very least engage in more public forums. Not “wayang” walkabouts to suddenly show that you care for that average man on the street. Good, intellectual, insightful dialogues where the government can gain ideas, feedback and the citizens a feel of satisfaction that the government do care and more importantly empowerment of how the country is being run. Start with the MPs of various constituencies. It can sure bridge the gap between the sentiment on the ground and the ruling party. Citizens on the other hand must be willing to speak out and address telling issues without fear. I know its tough to do, in fear of defaming the ruling party, but it is a culture shift that has got to happen, if not our average citizen will continue to be suppressed by policies and the cost of living.

Now to our parliament sessions. What I really, really crave for is a much more intellectual stimulation and enlightenment  when it comes to the discussion of politics or any social issues close to the citizens. How many of us normally switch channels after news when “Today in Parliament” is being aired following that?  I know I would, not because I have no interest in our national affairs but what is the point of seeing a  monotonous group of  leaders, dressed as if they are attending a wake, reading off scripts and singing the same tune?  Worse thing is, the scripts might not be even crafted by them? I would rather read the review on papers the next day. Perhaps only more senior ministers attended public speaking 101,  which is to talk to the audience and not burying your head in your script. I mean these are the so-called creme de la creme of what our country has to offer, they got to definitely have the intellect and eloquence to engage.

Judging from the recent parliament session, it seems that only the opposition party and a few other ministers  are interested in real matters of  Singaporeans. How is it possible that the need to integrate our new immigrants to our society, take precedence over the cost of living and how the plight of your citizens are  in a changing  globalized economy? It also does not help that the opposition has only 2 out of 84 seats in the parliament. Talk about minority. The lack of opposing views present in parliament has resulted in it being a mere formality, not a place for debate, self-reflection and discussion for the betterment of its citizens.

I judge passion based on sincerity. It’s not that I want an entertaining freak show, but at the end of the day, every government is accountable to who they serve and not the other way round. Thus engaging its citizens is vital.

It is such public statements that our MPs make (one of many) that really shows complacency and that worries me.

photo by itzaFineDay

A question on : whether making our CPF annuities compulsory is a start of a slippery slope where the government essentially interferes with our own money.

Here’s a reply by our MP:

“I replied that the Government’s job is to intervene where necessary. That is what we are elected to do. Singaporeans will have to judge whether the intervention has helped to create better results.”

Ooops! A Freudian slip?!! She’s talking about our hard-earned money mind you. See the complacency? It now becomes they can do whatever they want, and we are then left to judge once it has been implemented. Not the other way round.  No discussion, no deliberation. Do not forget that you are there because we elected you. Talk about being disillusioned…

It balls down to the passion to serve. Talk to any entrepreneur like Kenny Yap, CEO of  Qian Hu for example and I am confident that he can tell you the A to Z of fishes. Can we say the same for our ministers? Are they able to use their passion to serve as their guiding light and feel for its people?  Or are they bounded only by their ideologies which obstructs them to see through it ? It is especially so in Singapore where relativity and comparison of other systems in other countries is absent. We are unique because of our land scarcity, thus there are a lot of self created policies and system by the government. It seems to me that wealth and unchallenged power have deluded the true essence of the government, and that is to serve and engage.

Enjoy the passion, intellect and wit of what happens in parliaments and congressional hearings in other countries,  in the videos below. I especially love how the congressman totally slaughtered the bankers in the first video. See also how some ministers get so passionate in debating about policy issues. Engaging stuff.


Written by Nabs

April 12, 2010 at 8:35 am

Posted in MIND, Politics, Ramblings

17 Responses

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  1. “In one hearing, I was especially impressed by how Tim Geithner, the US Treasury Secretary manged to handle a panel of 20 over members questioning him on his role of the AIG bailout. Imagine that, one person in the middle, surrounded by 20 congressmen, being grilled left, right, centre. Real intense.”

    I must point out that in Singapore we also have our intense moments, abeit once a year. Each year, we have 20 over PAP MPs falling over one another to heap praises on the minister of finance and the ever compassionate budget. To hear of such such honeyed words in a deluge of debauchery is pretty intense for the listener, leaving him sick for days afterwards.


    April 12, 2010 at 1:42 pm

    • That’s hilarious! really living up to your nick huh. =)

      You do wonder about the things these ministers say at times, might be on a sugar rush.


      April 13, 2010 at 12:37 am

  2. best of the best power blog tenks admin


    April 12, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    • I take real pleasure in knowing that people like you enjoy it. Thank you!

      Happy reading !


      April 13, 2010 at 12:39 am

  3. Hi,

    Enjoy reading yr blog, keep up the good work.


    April 13, 2010 at 1:40 am

    • Many thanks Gary! Appreciate the comment.
      I ‘ll do my best.


      April 13, 2010 at 12:55 pm

  4. […] Countdown to Elections – It’s all about Amelioration: ENGAGE your people […]

  5. “However, irregardless of system, I think the greater issue here is of transparency and accountability to its people.”

    Hey, just so you know:
    Irregardless is a word that many mistakenly believe to be correct usage in formal style, when in fact it is used chiefly in nonstandard speech or casual writing. Coined in the United States in the early 20th century, it has met with a blizzard of condemnation for being an improper yoking of irrespective and regardless and for the logical absurdity of combining the negative ir- prefix and -less suffix in a single term. Although one might reasonably argue that it is no different from words with redundant affixes like debone and unravel, it has been considered a blunder for decades and will probably continue to be so.

    haha : ) stick to using regardless.


    April 13, 2010 at 3:56 am

    • Amendments made. Thanks for the heads up!


      April 13, 2010 at 5:00 am

  6. Unless we break up the Triad and get rid of the godfather. The wayang will continue. We are this way because of the educational policies. The MOE is defacto the govt’s propaganda and brainwashing machine.

    I know of friends who prefer to home school their kids because of this.


    April 13, 2010 at 10:15 am

    • Agreed. It’s a combination of meritocracy and elitism that is embedded in our education system that has got to be addressed.

      It’s a blessing in disguise that the surge in cost of living in recent years has hurt the middle class majority and I see a greater sense of awareness right now.

      Home schooling is a viable option, my only concern is the lack of interaction among fellow peers. Perhaps a balance of school and home education.

      As I quote Mark Twain : “I never let schooling interfere with my education.”


      April 14, 2010 at 3:18 am

  7. […] “…regardless of system, I think the greater issue here is of transparency and accountability to its people.” Nabs […]

  8. Good works, Nabs!
    I really enjoy reading your blogs.
    The main reason to live in UK: my children’s education, I have 4 children, I can not afford to home school them but rather live with them in UK and educate them as well.

    SG in UK

    April 17, 2010 at 8:26 pm

    • That’s a bold and admirable decision you made for your children. I hope the lack of the paper chase syndrome has allow them to fully appreciate the education process. Which part of UK do you reside in?

      Really appreciate the comment. Many thanks for reading!


      April 19, 2010 at 10:23 am

      • We live in Birmingham, there are many good Grammar Schools in this area. 2 of the youngest children (aged 8 and 9)just got a distinction for their violin, we are so pround of them!
        I used to work 9am to 9pm mon to sat in Singapore, made a lot of money though, my eldest daughter complained that she was so lonely at home even we had 2 maids to accompany her!
        Parenting is not an easy task esp. in Singapore, it is an easy option to leave our children to maid/s which my wife and I did 8 years ago. We do not practice that any more and having said that I really hope to see some life style changes in Singapore (a dream that is quite unattainble to most Singaporean), your new article Of Policies & Contraditions is another good piece of work. Keep it up, Nabs!

        SG in UK

        April 21, 2010 at 7:45 pm

  9. I bookmarked this link . Thank you for good job !


    April 28, 2010 at 8:02 am

  10. […] the ruling party fails to engage the younger generation of Singapore and empower them to play a role in building the country, what they’ll get is more and more […]

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